A musical reunion in less than ideal conditions

6 September 2021

HIP Company marks its first anniversary with an ambitious program that Sandra Bowdler says is hampered somewhat by technology and the choice of venue.

Bach Together Again”, HIP Company ·
St Andrew’s Church Subiaco, 4 September 2021 ·

HIP Company has reached its one year milestone with a string of successful concerts, quite an amazing achievement in view of the current COVID circumstances. “Bach Together Again”, devoted to the works of Johann Sebastien Bach, was not quite as successful, but not for purely musical reasons.

Churches can be cold places, even in Perth in early spring, and St Andrew’s Anglican in Subiaco is no exception – but one can anticipate this and wrap up warm, as most of the patrons did.

Most of the works were short pieces, generally excerpts from larger compositions, performed by Bonnie de la Hunty (soprano), Sarah Papadopoulos (violin), Krista Low (cello) and guest artist James Huntingford (harpsichord) and were worthy vehicles for their respective talents. 

The church was arranged with pews extending down the nave on both sides with the performers placed between them. Without designated seats, it was a bit of a lottery as to whether one chose the correct side in the circumstances. de la Hunty faced north but we ended up in a southern row, and while she pitched her voice well with respect to the acoustics, her lower notes did not really reach us unless she turned around, which she did frequently – probably not enough for us but enough possibly to annoy those in the northern rows.

The concert opened with the “Largo” from Sonata No 3 BWV 1005, well played by Papadopoulos but a slightly odd, introverted choice for an opener. Things were livened up with a sparkling “Mein glaübiges Herze” from Cantata BWV 68, perfect for de la Hunty’s pure accurate voice. “Wachet auf” – the chorale version, BWV 645 – was taken by violin, keyboard and lovely cello. 

L-R: Sarah Papadopoulos (violin), James Huntingford (harpsichord), Krista Low (cello) and Bonnie de la Hunty (soprano). Photo supplied

The ambitious part was the centrepiece, a complete performance of the cantata Ich habe genug BWV 82a (it was originally composed for bass and memorably sung by alto Lorraine Hunt Lieberson but this version is for soprano). This version requires a flute obbligato and an alto instrumental voice. Founding members of HIP currently domiciled in Europe, the USA and Melbourne were beamed in and could be seen on a screen at the altar end of the church. The musical reunion was a nice idea but didn’t quite come off.

There were three performers in the venue and four on the quartered screen – flautist Jonty Coy, violinist Eliza McCracken, violist Katie Yap and harpsichordist Michael Lukin – and none of them appeared to be looking at any of the others. The sound was just not quite perfectly synchronised, and sounded quite jumbled at times.

Ich habe genug is not one of Bach’s “happy-happy” cantatas, although neither is it miserable. It is a very personal soliloquy of acceptance of one’s lot and ultimately death. The venue and configuration were really unhelpful here, as from where I was sitting the low notes were inaudible and the recitatives barely heard at all. 

After Ich habe genug, Huntingford showed finesse in the first aria from the Goldberg Variations BWV 988, followed by the duet BWV 804 originally for keyboard but here rendered by violin and cello with well articulated clarity.

The evening concluded with two sprightly vocal works, the aria “Wenn die Frühlinglüfte streichen” from the Wedding Cantata BWV 202, and “Jesu joy of man’s desiring”, the well-known English version of an aria from Cantata BWV 147. de la Hunty could be heard to much better advantage in these works, but I would love to hear her tackle Ich habe genug under better aural circumstances.

Pictured top: The members of HIP Company celebrate their first year performing together with a concert at St Andrew’s Church, Subiaco. Photo supplied

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Author —
Sandra Bowdler

Sandra Bowdler is an archaeologist who has been writing about music for some twenty years, most recently for Opera magazine (UK), Bachtrack and Handel News. She is also the author of “Handel’s Operas in Australia, a performance history” Händel Jarhbuch (2017). Her favourite piece of playground equipment would be the picnic bench with smoked salmon sandwiches and champagne.

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